Prehospital spinal immobilization (PHSI) is routinely applied to patients sustaining torso gunshot wounds (GSW). Our objective was to evaluate the potential benefit of PHSI after torso GSW versus the potential to interfere with other critical aspects of care.
A retrospective analysis of all patients with torso GSW in the Strong Memorial Hospital (SMH) trauma registry during a 41-month period and all patients with GSW in the National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB) during a 60-month period was conducted. PHSI was considered potentially beneficial in patients with spine fractures requiring surgical stabilization in the absence of spinal cord injury (SCI).
Three hundred fifty-seven subjects from SMH and 75,210 from NTDB were included. A total of 9.2% of SMH subjects and 4.3% of NTDB subjects had spine injury, with 51.5% of SMH subjects and 32.3% of NTDB subjects having SCI. No SMH subject had an unstable spine fracture requiring surgical stabilization without complete neurologic injury. No subjects with SCI improved or worsened, and none developed a new deficit. Twenty-six NTDB subjects (0.03%) had spine fractures requiring stabilization in the absence of SCI. Emergent intubation was required in 40.6% of SMH subjects and 33.8% of NTDB subjects. Emergent surgical intervention was required in 54.5% of SMH subjects and 43% of NTDB subjects.
Our data suggest that the benefit of PHSI in patients with torso GSW remains unproven, despite a potential to interfere with emergent care in this patient population. Large prospective studies are needed to clarify the role of PHSI after torso GSW.